Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lazy Parents Who Want to Ban the Ice Cream Man

The New York Times brings us the newest rage in pop parenting: a movement to ban the ice cream man:

Ever since Katherine had an inconsolable meltdown about not being able to have a treat, Ms. Sell has been trying to have unlicensed vendors ousted from the park. She has repeatedly called the city’s 311 complaint hot line, joining parents nationwide who can’t stand the icy man or his motorized big brother, the ice cream man.

“I fall into the camp of parents who are irate,” Ms. Sell said. She has equal disdain for Mister Softee and the ice cream pop vendor outside the park, but since they are licensed, there is not much she can do about them.

Guess what? Parenting is not an easy job. When confronted with a temptation like an ice cream man, it is a parent's job to teach some lessons. The first is that you cannot always have what you want. Are the side effects of 'no' unpleasant? You bet your ass they are. But the sooner your child learns it, the better off you and the child will ultimately be. By banning the ice cream truck, all you accomplish is saving yourself a little trouble.

Second, the temptation of ice cream is also a perfect time to introduce your child to economic trade offs. I'll give you an example. When I was young, we had a regular visit from the ice cream truck. Once in a while, my mom and dad would spring for a treat. Most of the time, however, I was presented with a decision that I had to make: I could buy myself ice cream anytime I wanted, out of my allowance money or my piggy bank. But by doing so, it meant that I had less or no money for things I wanted more, like a toy or a pack of baseball cards. Again, the banners are abdicating their job to teach this lesson because it isn't always a pleasant lesson to teach, and that's plain lazy.

They also look at other issues of lazy parenting such as parents that leave their kids in strollers near the exhaust pipe or parents who don't want their kids eating ice cream. Well, I hate to say it, but neither of those items are the problem of the ice cream truck. They are problems of parents. It is a continuation of the trend for parents to not actually do a damn bit of parenting.

The article goes on to conflate several other issues that aren't pertinent to the core of this story. For instance, they talk about a Chicago ban that came about because of unsanitary situations and drug sales. Those are reasonable protections of the public and completely unrelated to their main issue of pop parenting. I'm willing to overlook that as poor writing as a result of a need to fill column inches. The focus of this article should not have been on the ice cream man but the weak willed parents, though.

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